Lana del Rey is known for creating a sound that’s uniquely her own. Her previous records, from 2012’s Born to Die to 2015’s Honeymoon, were not only well-received by critics, but also displayed del Rey’s original style—melancholy and cinematic music covering a variety of themes, such as romance, violence, and escapism. Despite being hailed as the queen of alternative music, the way del Rey stands out from other singers ushers her into a league of her own, maybe someone who even deserves her own genre.
Lust for Life is no exception. It still stands out in all the right ways, still contains the film noir-ish feel of all its predecessors—only more meaningful, this time around. Once again, del Rey manages to hold on to who she really is, while slightly reinventing her sound. Her latest album—her fifth one to date—is not only the first time where she has ventured to collaborate with other musical artists, but also the first time where the album cover art features her smiling instead of her trademark smirk. It hints at how different Lust for Life is from del Rey’s previous records—and it does not disappoint.
Like all standard Lana fare, this record luxuriates itself in lush arrangements that make for a certain richness of sound. Its gloomy, throwback bops and throaty croons borrow the slow-burning haze of ‘60’s music, while adding a modern, trap house beat—blues rock at its finest. Its glacial titular track, trembling with a soaring chorus and featuring The Weeknd’s vocals, serves as one of the album’s best songs, second only to its lead single, “Love,” a dreamy ode to the thing that can indeed conquer all.
The way del Rey joins forces with her featuring artists is also remarkable. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti never sound contrived nor out of place, as rap verses are wont to do in other records. Even the way Stevie Nicks drops in for a duet sounds right at home, with Nicks’ strong, versatile voice complementing del Rey’s husky, velvety one.
Yet, despite the artists featured on Lust for Life, del Rey remains center stage. While the record still contains her trademark layering, del Rey’s actual singing voice is put on full display, showcasing her talent. The smiling album cover art is fitting—this is del Rey’s happiest record to date, with it containing the most upbeat, party-worthy tracks among her previous songs.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the sultry tunes and laconic tempos, del Rey still manages to deliver a message, proving that Lust for Life might also be her most self-aware album. There are nods to the cruelty of crime (“Heroin”), war (“When the World was at War, We Kept Dancing”), and even politics (“Coachella—Woodstock on my Mind”)—a far cry from the Old Hollywood-esque heartbreak and party problems of her previous records, which suggest a preference for style over substance. Interwoven with a positive narrative, Lust for Life, for all its melancholic performances, actually contains—dare we say—hope.
In staying quintessentially herself—a moody screen siren with a penchant for singin’ the blues—del Rey succeeds in adding a world of meaning that was somewhat previously lacking to the music scene. Despite the bouts of creative dissonance and stylistic maneuvers which all too often make the record’s songs overlong, del Rey still delivers not only another one-of-a-kind record, but also plenty of messages for the youth. Her well-crafted pieces no longer simply focus on beautiful people and their beautiful problems, but also shine a light on the bigger issues out there. It’s a difficult feat—with all the dense and luscious tracks. But with Lust for Life, del Rey’s dark charm as a self-styled ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ manages another cinematic music masterpiece.